The Tasmanian Aboriginal people, or Palawa, settled Tasmania at least 35,000 years ago but possibly far longer. Palawa is a term used by Tasmanian Aboriginal people when referring to themselves and is derived from the name of the ‘first man’ in Aboriginal culture who was created by a spirit from a kangaroo. The Aboriginal name for Tasmania was Lutruwita. They crossed to Tasmania from mainland Australia over a land bridge known as the Bassian Plain. At this time the Central Plateau was covered in a thick ice sheet with glaciers flowing down from the highlands from around 21,000 years ago to around 12,000 years ago during which time the aboriginal people lived close to the coast. The Bassian Plain disappeared at the end of the Last Glacial Movement when the sea level rose and flooded the land bridge, isolating Tasmania from the rest of the country.  As the climate continued to warm the ice sheet and glaciers gradually melted and the Central Plateau was exposed. Around 3000 years ago the Tasmanian Aboriginal people began to take advantage of the resources the plateau provided and travelled inland following seasonal harvests. They hunted and foraged things such as birds, wallaby, wombat, possum, platypus and fresh water lobster and gathered fruits, roots, tubers, berries, healing herbs, plants and fibers. They also used fire to modify the land. Animals were attracted to new growth following the fires, which made them easier to hunt. The Tasmanian Aboriginals lived together in tribes and at the beginning of the 19th century when the British came to Tasmania there were around nine key tribes that each occupied their own territory, and had their own language and culture. These tribes have been estimated at a thousand people however the exact number is not known. The tribes consisted of bands of up to several hundred, with family groups living closely together within them. The Central Plateau area was home to the Big River tribe whose territory extended from the lakes region down to the Derwent Valley and bands of the Oyster Bay tribe also visited the area at times. There is no evidence that Tasmanian Aboriginals used boomerangs like their mainland relatives but they made tools from bone, stone, and other natural materials. They practiced religion, with many of their songs, dances and stories holding spiritual importance. Tasmanian Aboriginals were also known to paint themselves with ochre for ceremonies or when in mourning. Ochre was also used for artwork and is made from clay that contains minerals such as iron oxide that was ground into a powder. When the Europeans came to Tasmania in the beginning of the 19th century this had catastrophic implications for the Aboriginal people. They were susceptible to diseases brought by the Europeans who began to take over Aboriginal land and compete for resources. This caused conflict and many Tasmanian Aboriginals were killed. The Government began removing the Aboriginal people to islands around Tasmania such as Flinders Island however these failed and they were brought back to Oyster Cove. Although there are no full blood Tasmanian Aboriginal people left, their descendants are part of an active Aboriginal community within Tasmania.

Photo credit: Martyman at the English language Wikipedia

Photo credit: Martyman at the English language Wikipedia